I totally agree. A black market is emerging around fly-tipping, with links to numerous other crimes. It is helping to fund other criminal activities.
The former Twyford factory in Stoke-on-Trent is another such site. I have corresponded with the Minister about it previously, so she knows about it. It poses a huge risk, with former industrial buildings now overflowing with flammable waste. This is a site right next to the west coast main line and the A500 trunk road. If it were to set alight, there would be untold consequences right across the region. On further inspection, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has gone to the lengths of saying that, in that scenario, it would probably be far too dangerous to attempt to firefight it. That is not to mention the likely damage that a fire would cause to the railway. Services would be disrupted and the smoke plume could even result in the closure of the M6.
The current legislative framework is far too complex, with responsibilities often split across competing agencies such as the Environment Agency, local authorities and the fire and rescue service. Clearly, there is a vital need for improved legislation to combat the increased number of illegal waste sites and inevitable fires, and for measures to deal with the consequences. As the situation stands, the complexity of the law leaves holes for underhand behaviour. The current scale of the problem was not envisaged by the existing legislation, which is particularly concerning given the organised nature of illegal waste sites, with frequent links to more extensive crime networks.
The Government have already made significant progress to ensure that action is taken, but more is needed to beef up those powers and to ensure that more robust powers are available to those agencies and decisive action can be taken. It is important to consider what more can be done to ensure that the cost burden of the extensive emergency response and the eventual clean-up of those sites does not continue to be felt so significantly by those agencies and by the Government, who can ill afford it. It would be encouraging to hear how the Government can help agencies to recover some of the costs from the rogue businesses that perpetrate those crimes.